ET: What have been some of the high points in the last seven years since the first leg of T-Hub was launched?
MSR: In 2015, when Phase-1 was launched, there were less than 200 startups in Telangana. Now we have close to 7,000, according to the DPIIT (Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade). Therefore, we’ve transitioned from being a co-working space to almost a corporate. We have moved on to integration, then running corporate acceleration, corporate innovation programmes, figuring out how to help companies scale up to the next level. We’ve now supported more than 1,100 startups in the last seven years which have raised close to $4 billion of capital.
Our survival rates are high compared to most other entities that do similar work. And now, we’re also building a world-class infrastructure that you see here. The whole intent here is to provide a space where all the critical players of the ecosystem can operate collaboratively under one roof. So we have VCs, academic institutions, industry bodies, banks, etc. This is all, of course, backed by strong service providers which will be both technical and non-technical.
If you think of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, you need entrepreneurs, funding, VCs or bank-based funding, government support, media, academia, industry bodies, corporates. You need all of them to work together to create a holistic ecosystem. Therefore, the biggest focus for us is how can we be that orchestrator? How do we get all of these things aligned? How do we ensure that all of these pieces are working in unison, in synchrony?
In the meantime, we are working on expanding our model geographically. We have already started working with Orissa. We are talking to a couple other states. We are also in conversations with a couple of Central Asian countries as well as with one of our neighbors to the east to help set up and promote a concept very similar to what we have here.
T-Hub has supported more than 1,100 startups in the last seven years which have raised close to $4 billion of capital.
ET: What sectors are T-Hub 2 tapping into?
MSR: We have startups in close to 37 sectors. We’re now starting to double down on certain sectors — healthcare, EV, animation and gaming. In healthcare alone, we have over 90 startups. We are also looking at deep tech.
These are the five sectors that will continue to support all kinds of entrepreneurs. Our focus will be to try and see how we can support these five. Our framework is to provide access to money, access to markets, mentors, manpower or talent, motivation and mindset, along with partnerships and policy support. So once we start with a little more specialised work in each of these five sectors, it becomes a lot more easy for us to build that capability.
ET: Would you say that T-Hub is becoming the new Silicon Valley of India?
MSR: I think the comparisons are obvious. Obviously, first of all, you have to remember that Silicon Valley has been around for close to 60 years. But I think this, what we’ve done today, is a huge step towards creating an environment, establishing an infrastructure that can lead to many more things. We are headed not just to compete with Silicon Valley, but maybe, in the future, even surpass it.
ET: What can we learn from our peer countries in terms of creating an enabling environment for startups?
MSR: I think more work needs to be done in our capital market system. I also feel that there is a lot more room for deeper engagement between corporates and startups. Third, how do we get more academic involvement in the work startups are doing for some cutting-edge, deep-tech type of work? These things are slowly being figured out.
ET: In the last two years, we have seen so much disruption starting from the pandemic, its variants to the war, which are leading to global crisis. While startups definitely innovated, they also faced a lot of problems. How is T-Hub 2.0 preparing for such uncertainties?
MSR: I think, fundamentally, entrepreneurs are hardy folks. They have a very strong survival instinct. So many of them pivoted, caught up to the changing market realities. And they’ve not only survived, but also thrived.
The pandemic has taught us a few things in terms of how to work remotely, how to make sure you can manage your money tighter and, hence, how to prepare for tough times. Last year, we specifically launched a programme to help startups figure out how to navigate choppy waters.